‘Ted’ Remains One of the Funniest Comedies Ever

Man, I would have loved it if this had happened to me as a kid; having one of my stuffed animals come to life and me forming a lifelong friendship with it. That is what makes “Ted” one of the most enjoyable and funniest movies I saw back in 2012 as it makes that dream become a reality. Seth MacFarlane, the creator “Family Guy,” makes his live-action motion picture directorial debut here, and it is one of the few comedies which is not hit and miss as the laughs just keep on coming. “Ted” also balances out its wickedly crude humor with a lot of heart as the movie comes to look at how important friendships can be in life no matter what form they take.

At the movie’s start, we meet young John Bennett (Bretton Manley) who lives with his family in a town near Boston. The narration, delivered in brilliant fashion by Patrick Stewart, goes over how John has no friends and that even the Jewish kid in the neighborhood who keeps getting the crap kicked out of him by bullies wants nothing to do with him. Things change for the better when he receives a teddy bear for Christmas, whom he names Ted. John loves Ted so much to where he makes a wish for the bear to come alive, and I am sure you know what happens from there.

“Ted” doesn’t take long to get the comedy juices rolling as John’s parents (Alex Borstein and the hilarious Ralph Garman) are incredibly shocked to see their son’s teddy bear walking and talking on its own. After that, Ted becomes a celebrity of sorts as he has Johnny Carson in hysterics and ends up getting arrested at the airport for drug possession. Throughout all of this, he and John remain the best of friends through all things and share many common interests including a serious fear of thunder.

Moving forward to the present, John is now played by Mark Wahlberg and works at a car rental agency. He and Ted still enjoy hanging out together while getting high and doing stupid things when left to their own devices. At the same time, John has been in a long-term relationship with the beautiful Lori Collins (Mila Kunis), and she ends up giving John an ultimatum to get Ted to move out of their apartment so they can move on with their lives.

The fact is Ted has become incredibly obnoxious, unthinkably vulgar, and gleefully hedonistic; something which does not stop once he is finally forced to move out and get his own apartment. He even finds a job at a supermarket despite being grossly inappropriate during an interview with the manager. Instead of giving the manager a reason not to hire him, Ted impresses him with his behavior. Either that or he is just desperate for any employee he can get to work for minimum wage.

During this time, Ted still manages to get John to hang out with him, and this results in John having to lie to Lori while making ridiculous excuses to get out of work. One night with Ted which John cannot possibly turn down is when Sam J. Jones, the star of their favorite movie “Flash Gordon,” shows up for a party at Ted’s apartment. You have to give Jones a lot of credit for sending himself up and having a good sense of humor about the popularity of the 1980 camp classic as he portrays himself as a hard living actor looking for a comeback. Even Ted cannot help but remind John about how Jones’ performance in “Flash Gordon” ended up redefining what it means to act in a movie (and not necessarily in a good way).

Truth be told, “Ted” could have just worked with its crude yet irresistible humor as it scores one big laugh after another. But its main success is how it also combines that crude humor with a lot of heart. The movie is really about the power of friendships and the struggle to keep them going when other things get in the way. As crazy as Ted gets, be it humping a checkout scanner or even snorting cocaine, even he comes to see he has to change his ways just like John has to in his own way. But whatever you do, do not get Ted started on Teddy Ruxpin, seriously!

I have never watched “Family Guy” on a regular basis, so I cannot compare “Ted” to it. Regardless, this film does show him to have a great sense of humor as well as a good appreciation for the stranger parts of popular culture. It is also a must for fans of “Flash Gordon” as it pays homage to its so bad it is good qualities. MacFarlane also throws in jabs at other pop culture targets like Taylor Lautner, Justin Bieber, and even Brandon Routh whose performance in “Superman Returns” is not exactly respected here.

Wahlberg is utterly hilarious, but this should be no surprise to anyone who saw him share the screen with Will Ferrell in “The Other Guys.” The scene where he lists off “white trash girls names” in rapid fire succession is a comic highlight, but even that gets outdone by the vicious fight scene he and Ted have. For a moment I thought Ted would descend into Chucky (the doll from the “Child’s Play” movies) territory, but even he doesn’t get that crude. Still, it results in some of the biggest laughs I have ever had in a movie theater.

Mila Kunis remains as engaging as ever, playing the same wonderful type of character she played in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” Having her in this movie as Lori makes John’s need to get rid of Ted seem like a real no-brainer. Kunis also gets to play Lori as someone not bound by typical clichés, and she ends up making Lori the most intelligent person in the entire movie as a result.

There is also Giovanni Ribisi showing up as crazed stalker Donny who wants to buy Ted from John so he can give the teddy bear to his son Robert (Aedin Mincks). Donny cannot bring himself to say no to anything his son wants (bad parent alert!), and this includes giving Robert a toy he may very well end up destroying. Granted, Ribisi’s role in “Ted” might seem unnecessary as it adds something the plot does not necessarily need, but it’s worth it just so we can watch his truly creepy dance to Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now.”

The design of Ted is that of a generic teddy bear, the kind you end up adding your own personality to. It was smart to go with this kind of bear instead of with some iconic stuffed animal with a built-in personality. You never quite know what is going to come out of Ted’s mouth next. While it may seem somewhat unrealistic for any teddy bear or stuffed animal to be having this much fun, women of any age are quick to hug one quicker than men nearby. This is the story of my life these days, dammit.

Seriously, “Ted” was one of the best comedies I ever got to watch in a theater. Now a lot of this has to do with my continued affection for stuffed animals after all these years, but it also proved to be one of those comedies which was not hit and miss like many I see. It speaks to those special memories we had with our stuffed animals growing up, and of how they eventually bec0me as crazy as us.

* * * * out of * * * *

The Severe Impatience of a Child on Christmas Morning

Photo by Tammy Kenber.

It was Christmas morning in 2013, and I was sleeping in the loft of my parents’ home in Northern California. While everyone else had a comfortable bed to sleep on, I was the odd man out as I was forced to sleep on an air mattress in the loft which is as spacious as it sounds (which is to say, not really). This shit happens when all the bedrooms are occupied.

Even after I woke up, and at a time which was far too early for my aging body and mind to tolerate, I kept my eyes shut in the hopes that maybe I could get just a few more minutes of sleep. But alas, I had no such luck because eventually felt a foot tapping on my air mattress, and looked up to see my niece who told me, with a very stern look in her eyes:

“Wake up Uncle Ben, we’ve got to open presents!”

It took me a few more minutes to haul my ass out of bed after her statement of purpose, but even though I was waking up far too early, I had to admit I knew exactly how she felt. Her impatience in waiting for Christmas Day to arrive brought back a lot of memories for me. I still vividly remember waiting for Santa Claus to arrive at whatever house me and my family was staying at to leave us presents, but I also remember getting little to no sleep on Christmas Eve which made the wait to open presents all the more agonizing.

The rule for me and my older brother was we couldn’t open up any presents until 7:00 a.m. but waiting for the clock to reach this early morning hour was simply pure torture. Back when you were a child, Christmas could never come soon enough. Time just dragged on and on as you waited to open the presents nestled comfortably under the tree. As we get older, time beings moving a lot faster, but back then those hands on the clock seemed to move at a snail’s pace.

When my niece finally did open the presents Santa left for her, her immense pleasure proved to be quite audible. Among the gifts she received was a trampoline which will be waiting for her back home. To this, she let out a very loud scream of joy which must have woken up the whole neighborhood. Then again, if my parents watching “Skyfall” on their HD television with the soundtrack blasting out of the speakers doesn’t wake the neighbors up, what will?

But then there were the rest of the presents under the tree for the whole family to unwrap, and my niece had to wait even longer to open those meant for her. Us adults had to get up, take a shower, get dressed and have breakfast. While children might be content to skip meals to get at those presents, we older people have long since developed a level of patience which never comes easily. Nevertheless, we all couldn’t help but tease my niece as she shifted anxiously in her chair. Just when she thought we were done with breakfast, we informed her we needed to go on a 5-mile walk to burn all these calories off. All the same, she didn’t quite get the joke, and her impatience in waiting to unwrap her presents became all the more palpable.

Seriously, she came up to each of us, prepared to take our plates, and said, “Are you done?” Her parents told her she needed to ask us nicely. As a result, she once again asked if we were done, but this time she asked us the same question with a big smile. Somehow the message didn’t get through as her actions and facial expressions shows a child shamelessly seeking to manipulate our emotions to her advantage.

Following this, my niece rushed up the stairs to the Christmas tree and awaited our appearance. When we didn’t show up, she began writhing on the floor like she was Linda Blair furiously bouncing up and down on her bed in “The Exorcist,” possessed by a demomic force which needed to be banished from her body forever. She really couldn’t wait for much longer and, in her mind, we couldn’t make it up the stairs fast enough

Just as when I was a child, my niece had the job of handing out presents to everybody. But, of course, the first one she picked out was for herself (I used to do the exact same thing). She also insisted we open our presents individually and not all at once. For a moment, I thought she was doing this to get back at us for making her wait to unwrap her gifts, but her mother pointed out how much fun it is to watch the expressions on everyone’s faces when they opened theirs.

It was worth it just to see my niece get super excited about her gifts. She didn’t even try to hide her glee, and it got to where she spoke so fast that we couldn’t understand what the hell she was saying.

Among her gifts was a doll which was tied up ever so securely in its box, and she asked for our help in getting the doll out as it seemed not just child proof, but adult proof as well. Seriously, I thought we were going to have to use the table saw in the garage to get this doll free.

I got her a Target gift card worth $15, and I have never seen a child get so exhilarated over receiving one before. I hope she wasn’t putting on some sort of act to hide any disappointment over the amount not being larger. Then again, if it were a $10 dollar gift card, she probably still would have gone apeshit over it.

Watching my niece opening her presents proved to be a reminder of how wonderful a holiday Christmas can be. I have been kind of blasé about it for the past few years because of all the commercialization surrounding it, and this has resulted in “Bad Santa” becoming my holiday movie of choice as it serves as a gleefully vicious rebuttal over this over-commercialized occasion. When it comes to my family however. there is no beating Christmas. It also reminds me of how precious time is because it keeps going by faster and faster as we get older and older. It almost makes me feel kind of envious of my niece because she has yet to discover how quickly time can fly by. Moreover, it reminds of how we need to treasure these precious moments as they will vanish before we know it.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good set of presents you put on your wish list. As for the stockings, any complaints need to be sent to Mrs. Claus.